I just sent an email along the following lines to several of the council election candidates in my ward (Edinburgh: Sighthill/Gorgie). When I receive replies I’ll post these as comments below.
I am considering voting for you in the council elections, but I have decided that, in order to get my vote, candidates in the 2022 elections will have to make these pledges:
(1) Promise to campaign for the Lothian Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels. You can see from this website – https://www.divest.org.uk/councils/ – that it still has £165m invested in them. In this day and age, when we know so much about the devastating consequences of climate meltdown, the ‘constructive engagement’ and ‘fiduciary duty’ arguments are surely no longer tenable. (Indeed, given the likely dire consequences for everyone of ongoing fossil fuel combustion, surely ‘fiduciary duty’, properly understood, should oblige funds to divest from fossil fuels?)
In the square brackets is a bit I added to my email to the Green Party candidate: [I know that you are aware of this, as your party’s manifesto does indeed state: ‘Prevent indirect impacts of council business, including the Lothian Pension Fund, on the climate by divesting from fossil fuels and carrying out a climate assessment of council procurement’. However,] I would further like you to promise to opt out of the Lothian Pension Fund scheme if you cannot persuade it to divest within a year of your election. (There are good ethical pensions advisers out there and, having used one, my own experience is that one can get very decent returns from ethical investments.)
(2) Promise to support Edinburgh’s twinning with Gaza. Israel and its allies are desperate to keep the ongoing horrors of the Israeli state’s human rights abuses from public awareness, and so will try every trick in the book to prevent this, not least making accusations of anti-Semitism. However, there are many Jewish organisations and individuals opposed to Israel’s violations. I have found this Jewish website to be an excellent source of information on Israeli settler-colonialism: https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/. You might find it a useful reference when arguing for twinning with Gaza, and I suggest you take a few minutes to explore it.
I look forward to your response, and hope to be able to vote for you.
Response received from Cllr Cathy Fullerton (SNP) on 11 April 2022
Thank you for your email.
I am advised that the route that Lothian Pension Fund is on is as outlined on their website, that of responsible investment and engagement not divestment. The fund follows ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) principals in that engagement. They have had success in getting people onto boards who will pursue environmental issues and help change those companies from within. I know that the Pensions Committee monitor the Statement of responsible Investment which is produced annually and the committee takes an interest in all matters covered by Environment, Social and Governance consideration.
On Twinning with Gaza, the Council has not yet discussed this fully so I am not commenting at present.
Councillor Catherine Fullerton MBA, DipMan.
My response to Ms Fullerton:
Dear Ms Fullerton
Thank you for your reply, which you won’t be surprised I find disappointing. Nonetheless, I really do appreciate you making the effort to respond.
With regard to fossil fuel investments, I made it clear in my initial email that I don’t buy the ‘constructive engagement’ line in this day and age, and neither should my political representatives. Pension fund managers should be servants of society in general, not dictators to most of us and craven servants of biosphere-wrecking big-money interests. It’s time they understood that they have a ‘fiduciary duty’ to the wellbeing of the biosphere, to which we all belong and on which we all depend. In view of the latest IPCC report, how can any sane person continue to argue against divestment from fossil fuels? Please opt out of the Lothian Pension Fund until it divests. The LPF would soon change its absurdly defunct tune if several councillors acted as responsible global citizens.
As far as twinning with Gaza goes, it seems likely that Edinburgh Council’s Chief Executive (unelected!) has been intimidated by threats from lawyers serving the Israeli settler-colonial regime and taken the issue off the agenda. I trust you will speak against caving into such desperate and empty threats, against what is a purely friendly and benign initiative, should you be re-elected.
R. Eric Swanepoel, Dr
I chased up Dr Dan Heap, my local Green candidate, on Twitter, re the pension fund issue, and he replied: ‘Apologies for missing the e-mail. I will reply ASAP. Short answer on me withdrawing from the pension scheme: yes.’ That’s great news!